This painting shows that Sōtatsu carefully researched Chinese models, whether they were original paintings he saw in and around Kyoto or illustrations in woodblock-printed books. Prototypes for this composition include a more realistically depicted plum-tree painting attributed to the monk-painter Minchō (1352–1431) and plum-tree paintings by Song dynasty artist Yang Wujiu (1097–1169).
Plum Tree documents Sōtatsu’s interest in radical simplification and seeing the underlying essence of forms. If it lacked blossoms, the plum branch would be a bold exercise in abstraction. The work bears the signature Hokkyō Sōtatsu and the round vermilion relief seal Taisei.
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Japan, early 17th century
Ink on paper
Hosomi Museum, Kyoto